After a major restoration the excavations under Palazzo Valentini have now opened to the public on a permanent basis. A small baths complex dating from the second century AD was discovered seven metres below street level under the basement of the building. It is believed to be part of a nearby residential scheme found over 100 years ago prior to the 1907 construction of Palazzo delle Assicurazioni in Piazza Venezia.
Through a mixture of archaeological remains, restored baths and virtual reality, visitors can experience a sense of life in imperial times. The walls are decorated with mosaics and murals; the rooms are filled with Roman artefacts. The hour-long tour concludes with the display of a large 3-D recreation of the area as it would have appeared in Rome’s imperial era. Work on Palazzo Valentini began at the end of the 16th century and was part of Cardinal Michele Bonelli extensive development of the area around the Roman Forum. In1873 the palazzo became the property and headquarters of the Rome provincial government.
Today the building houses a library which was founded in 1912 and contains valuable 16th and 17th-century guide books, literary works, archaeological studies and manuscripts. The excavations are open daily except Tuesday from 09.30 to 17.00 and booking is advised, tel. 0632810. In addition to the opening of the Palazzo Valentini excavations, Italy’s ministry for cultural heritage has announced free entry to the Colosseum on 23 October to celebrate the opening of the amphitheatre’s underground level.